Washington Senate Democrats unveiled a detailed counteroffer Friday seeking to undo tens of billions of dollars in cuts Republicans would make to education, housing and other domestic programs.
With the two parties maneuvering for advantage in their budget clash, the Democratic plan conforms to President Barack Obama’s opening gambit to cut another $6.5 billion from domestic agencies. But neither it nor the $61 billion in cuts passed by House Republicans is expected to survive test votes next week in the Senate.
Both sides view the votes as necessary preludes to negotiations on narrowing the $50 billion gap between cuts the White House and Republicans want. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid called the GOP reductions “mean-spirited.”
Facing a federal deficit of $1.6 trillion, the White House and Congress have struggled to produce a long-overdue plan for the ongoing budget year. House Republican leaders are under pressure from tea partiers in their ranks for significant spending cuts, putting them at odds with Democrats who control the Senate.
The Democratic plan unveiled by Reid, D-Nev., completely restores money the House GOP cuts from education, health and job training programs. It provides a modest increase for homeland security rather than the 2 percent cut proposed by Republicans. And it softens cuts to housing subsidies and community development grants, while restoring about $5 billion in foreign aid, including help for allies in the war on terror like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But it’s not likely to please the Defense Department. The Pentagon has already complained that the slightly more generous House measure would leave it without enough money to meet vital military requirements.
Reid promises votes next week on both plans but said he doesn’t expect either to win the 60 votes needed to pass.
“Our plan recognizes that we’re not in a competition to determine who can cut the most, without regard for the consequences,” Reid said. He said House Republicans’ plan “is based in ideology, ours is based in reality. These are decisions about real money that solve real problems that affect real lives.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a participant in Thursday’s talks with Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders, said the Democratic plan does nothing more than the status quo. It falls far short of a House-passed GOP bill slashing domestic agencies by 13 percent or more on average.